Piedmont Theatre’s Make Mom Proud brings a crowd

Piedmont Theatre's Make Mom Proud brings a crowd

BY EMILY CLANCE, A&E Editor

On Friday, Feb. 21, the Swanson Center’s Mainstage Theater hosted the second annual Make Mom Proud production, a dance show titled “Operation: Dancing Freedom.”

Produced by junior mass communications and theatre double major Shelby Whitehouse, “Operation: Dancing Freedom” told the stories of four different military families and how their lives were changed by war.

Before the show began, the cast dedicated the show to their loved ones who had served or were currently serving in the military. After a few moments, the performance began with a number featuring all eleven members dancing to “God Bless The U.S.A.”

Freshman musical theatre major Zack Smagur played a soldier who was killed in action, leaving behind his wife and daughter, played by junior theatre major Caroline Harmon and freshman theatre major Sarah Sharp.

In the next scene, set to “Letters From War” by Mark Schultz, freshman theatre major Jessica Williams and former theatre major Oliver Merritt played a mother and son who wrote letters to each other as he served in the Air Force.

Junior theatre major Melanie Cassiday played a mother waiting for her daughter, senior theatre education major Tamara Rainwater, to come home safely from the Navy.

Finally, in a heartbreaking scene featuring the song “If You’re Reading This” by Tim McGraw, Whitehouse and senior theatre major Ben Cisse played a young married couple separated too soon, first by his deployment and then by his death.

Senior theatre and mass communications double major Njoki Coleman narrated the show between dance numbers.

The music featured in the show covered a wide range of artists, including “This Is War” by 30 Seconds to Mars, “Hometown Glory” by Adele and “Home” by Phillip Phillips.

“Operation: Dancing Freedom” was the second production from Make Mom Proud, an organization founded in 2013 by theatre majors Jacob McKee, Monique Leaphart and Tyler Dale. Its purpose is to use live theatre as a means to help others by raising money for different charities.

Last year’s show, a play written by McKee called “The Present Is Just The Future Past,” raised money for the Evie Peters Foundation, which provides support for women with breast cancer in Habersham County.

The profits from “Operation Dancing Freedom” went to Patriots of Piedmont, an on-campus club dedicated to supporting the military deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq and the families of those deployed.

Whitehouse produced the show herself, and she also choreographed many of the dance numbers with help from Cassiday, Rainwater and junior theatre major Jamie Doublet.

“I wanted to do Operation: Dancing Freedom because it combines so many of the things I am passionate about,” Whitehouse said.

“I love dancing more than anything in this world, and it’s the way I express myself. I also have a huge love for the military so I thought, ‘why not put the two together?’”

The dancers performed magnificently, their emotions coming across the stage through their movement and their facial expressions. The audience felt the pain of loss as well as the joy of families being reunited with the performers, and no one left the theater with dry eyes.

At the end of the show, the cast and crew announced that they had raised over $800 for the Patriots of Piedmont with the donations from the audience. The painted flats that hung above the stage were also raffled off to four lucky winners.

Though the process of producing “Operation: Dancing Freedom” was hard, espeically since several cast members were also involved in the theatre department’s production of “Blithe Spirit,” Whitehouse said she was thrilled with the results.

“We had 11 cast members, including myself,” she said.

“Trying to work around everyone’s schedules and the other show’s schedules was difficult, but we pulled it off and we raised so much money.”